“In order for a person to know peace, they must experience a struggle for it. One must go through the stage of heroism and courage before they can act wisely. They must be a victim of escape and evasion before they can overcome it.”

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So wrote American author, artist, and creator Henry Miller, in what seems like it could have been written about the Middle East, an area where extremist and Islamist groups use religious justifications to incite hostility and hatred.

My heart goes out to future generations who will live in the Middle East, which include those who would wish to bequeath them bloodshed, racism, separation and discrimination. However, is the solution to stand back without pointing a finger while inciters of hatred destroy the present and future of our children and grandchildren? Are we, the peace-loving camp, fighting back enough? Do we offer solutions that are truly capable of dealing with systems that work mercilessly to spread darkness, once in the name of imaginary and false “nationalism,” and other times in the name of religious illusions and hallucinations?

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As a peacemaker, I feel a great responsibility to do something in order to build a wall in opposition to these forces, to lay foundations and formulate views and perceptions that will help change the situation as a whole. All this in order to encourage a more “humane” Middle East, one in which everyone will live together without resentment and bloodshed.

I dream of a future in which everyone will live in peace. And for the sake of actualizing this dream, I believe the time has come to remind ourselves of the dream of one of the most important peace thinkers in the region's history, the independent liberal Amin al-Mahdi, whose first anniversary of his death fell on October 11, 2021.

The great dream of the late man of peace was founding “a parliament for democratic peace in the Middle East.” He described this dream in detail in his famous book, “The Arab-Israeli Conflict: The Crisis of Democracy and Peace”, which was published in Arabic in 1999 and translated into Hebrew in 2000, exactly two decades ago, under the title “The Other Opinion” (United Kibbutz Publishing).

Al-Mahdi explained his vision as follows: “During the years of existence of the Middle East problem, there was a lack of moral, cultural and political force that would give expression to the close and vigorous presence of the peoples of the region themselves in the events that oppress them… At this time, when new complications arise in the Middle East problem, and when perceptions about peace and dialogue are blurred, changing, and divided according to the changes taking place among the various parties, there is a more urgent need than ever for the existence of a shared moral, cultural, and political force. Such a force would make it possible to freely discuss perceptions of peace and dialogue in order to define them clearly, integrate them into the mentality of the peoples of the region, and assimilate them even among decision-makers, even if it involves pressure. If, as has been said, ‘war is too serious a matter for them to be left in the hands of the military,’ then peace is too important a matter for it to be left in the hands of governments alone.”

In another paragraph, he added that one of the main characteristics of the struggle between war and peace is that it was not shared – especially on the Arab side – by the real stakeholders, the democratic popular elements and the pro-progress and peace activists, those who support the ‘other opinion’.”

Al-Mahdi also wrote that “the parliament will work to develop the cultural denominators between the countries of the region in order to draw a new cultural map that will strengthen the power of conscience and serve peace. The parliament will work to demand bold solutions, even if it would mean granting Arab citizenship to all Jews who were forced to emigrate from the Arab world (who of our own flesh and blood), while allowing Israeli Arabs dual citizenship in Israel and the Palestinian state. These things will be a demonstration of the wide horizons that can be imagined within the framework of democratic peace.”

Al-Mahdi wrote 19 clauses, in which he referred in detail to the conduct and mechanisms of the parliament, including its assembly, administration, members, budgets, publications and ceremonies, including memorial days to revive the memory of the victims of peace. He addressed issues such as human rights, women’s rights, the environment, prisoners of war and other issues that could make a positive contribution to regional and global peace. The clauses he wrote were intended to serve as tools for turning the founding of the parliament from a vision to a present reality.

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I am well aware that a long time has passed in the region since al-Mahdi first raised his proposal. Some of the developments that have taken place can serve as an inspiring beacon for popular peace – in particular, the Abraham Accords signed between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.

I am raising the plan of my teacher and guide Amin al-Mahdi, in the hope that friends, peace activists, and academic centers in Israel will see this as an invitation to open a dialogue about its actualization.

All this as a platform for the establishment of true popular peace that will bring about a turnaround in our region, become part of the free world and spread hope, light and well-being to all its inhabitants.

I am sounding my call and am wholeheartedly ready to take part in discussions and debates that will help bring it into reality. I reach out to all peace-seekers to fulfill a dream, of which I am convinced expresses the desire of many more. I'm also waiting to see who will reach out to me in return. Who will respond to my call?

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Mohamed Saad Khairallah is an Egyptian democracy activist and one of the founders of the Second of October movement, which strives to strengthen democracy and lessen the power of the military in Egypt. 

Amin al-Mahdi was an Egyptian writer, publicist and intellectual and a clear and bold voice of peace in the Middle East. He passed away under unclear circumstances in October 2020, just days after being released from custody. The article was written in honor of a beloved man who raised many disciples, and whose spirit lives on in Egypt and beyond.