What I Didn’t Find in Jordan by Ido Cohen, Israel

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In 2003, Joseph C. Wilson wrote an op-ed called “what I didn’t find in Africa” about the Bush administration manipulation.

He stated that the administration forged Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs to justify an invasion of Iraq. This op-ed will not be as dramatic but hopefully it will raise the same amount of questions.

Take 30 Palestinians, 30 Israel’s, add another 60 participants from all over the MENA region, put them in one room in a hotel in Jordan. Sounds like a recipe for a mess? More like one big party. One big party, this was how I felt during my time in the MENA Leaders for change conference, which I attended last week.

The reason I mentioned Joseph C. Wilson’s article is because when I visited Jordan I was looking for something that our governments and societies claim that we should find when going to a place like Jordan, meeting Palestinians and other members of the MENA region. But just like Joseph C. Wilson, I didn’t find it. I did not find HATE, TENTION or any other emotion that people would usually choose to describe such gathering of people.

From a young age we are taught to believe that we are different, by religion, culture and values. We are taught to ignore what’s right in front of our face and to believe in a narrative. It’s is not the distance between us nor the different schools we go to or the different neighborhoods we live in, it’s only us. The only issue that is preventing us from seeing what’s in front of us is ourselves.

I had never met a Palestinian before joining Yala young leaders. Never had the chance to hear about the revolution in Egypt from a person who experienced it firsthand. I never sat down with an Israeli-Palestinian citizen or Christian-Arab. All the people I had mention, live right next to me, but for some reason I never met them, I let misconception lead me instead of seeing people for what they really are, people.

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to participate in the MENA leaders for change conference at the Dead Sea in Jordan. I had no idea what to expect. For anyone that heard about the varied group of people that attended this conference, it was a shock. Israelis and Palestinians together? Must be an intense experience? Well it is, but not in the way you would think.  At the conference, there was no tension at all. Everyone we’re sitting together around tables, planning project together to improve our future together as a region.

I was happy to realize that what our governments had failed to do for more than 30 years now, we, the young leaders of the MENA region, managed to do in 3 days.

For a citizen, there is no way to fight a power as great as our governments, though sometimes it’s worth trying. As a result of Wilson’s op-ed, the bush administration decided to effectively end the career of Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, by revealing her identity as a CIA operative. After a cruel fight against the White House, Wilson and his wife managed to win the trail, convicting the security advisor of the bush administration for perjury and obstruction of justice.

We have a couple of steps we have to take towards peace. The first one, is to open our eyes, look around and ask ourselves one question: are we looking at what’s really in front of us, or are we looking at a reality of misconception. I did not find what I was looking for in Jordan… and thank god for that.

Ido Cohen

YaLa Young Leaders

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