Despite diplomatic experiences, Seeds of Peace's Aaron Miller
believes personal relationships matter.
r. Aaron David Miller,
former senior adviser for
at the U.S. State Depart-
ment, took over in January as presi-
dent of the international youth
organization Seeds of Peace.
Dr. Miller, the author of three
books gri the Middle East, spent
more than two decades at the State
Department, where he worked with
six secretaries of state. He succeeded
Seeds founder John Wallach, who
died last July.
On April 3, Dr. Miller spoke with
the Jewish News about the goals,
accomplishments and challenges of
Seeds of Peace. On a three-day trip
to metropolitan Detroit, Dr. Miller
also met with community leaders
and lectured at the University of
Michigan's International Studies
Center in Ann Arbor.
DJN: Why did you accept the pres-
idency of Seeds of Peace?
ADM: [Before accepting the job,]
I thought about it a long time. I
spent almost the last 25 years of my
life engaged in formal, official diplo-
macy, dealing with adults, not
Despite the fact that the situation
on the ground was awful and getting Aaron Miller
worse the last 2 1/2 years, I still
believed, and I believe now, that for-
becomes the property of the public, unless per-
mal official diplomacy is the only way we're
sonal relationships change, relationships
ever going to have agreements between Israelis
between groups change, no matter what kind
of agreement you're going to have, it's not
But the more I thought about it, the more I
going to endure.
began to understand that there was something
And even if it endures, it isn't going to be the
more at risk. What was at risk was a possibility
kind of peace that we want and that they need.
that we could lose an entire generation of
young Israelis and Palestinians because this gen- DJN: Describe the Seeds of Peace program..
eration is so caught up in the conflict, despair
ADM: Seeds of Peace started in 1993 as an
and hopelessness of the last several years.
Arab-Israeli conflict resolution organization
That, combined with the reality, sadly, that
and,•in the main, that's where it remains.
the timeline for Israeli-Palestinian peace has
But we're now running co-existence programs
been pushed off well into the future, made it
in three of the other most difficult conflicts in
clear to me that my talents could be better used the world: between Indians and Pakistanis;
outside of official diplomacy.
Greek and Turkish Cypriots; and the various
One of the lessons of the past 20 years is
that, unless the process of peacemaking
LOOKING FORWARD on page 21
Miller instills confidence
at Seeds fund-raiser.
ali Ben Josef, an Israeli native who moved
to the United States 13 years ago, joined
Seeds Of Peace after Sept. 11, 2001.
"Rather than complain, I decided to do some-
thing about it," she said "I believe if we change
anything, it has to be the education of young peo-
ple. In Israel, we were brainwashed against the
Arabs, and I'm sure they were brainwashed against
Ben Josef, who lives in Huntington Woods, was
one of about 150 Detroit-area residents to hear a
presentation by Dr. Aaron David Miller, the sec-
ond president of Seeds, at an April 3 fund-raiser.
Guests at the event, held at the Farmington Hills
home of Florine Mark Ross, were fairly evenly dis-
tributed between Jews and Arab Americans.
Also at the April 3 fund-raiser was Joanne
Faycurry of Bloomfield Hills, a member of Seeds'
Peace Partners adult group that traveled to the
Balkans in December to investigate multi-ethnic
relations in that war-torn area.
"Dr. Miller brings a fresh, new outlook to the
organization, plus a lot of credibility because of his
work in the State Department," Faycurry said.
"His remarks were both sobering and inspiring.
He pointed out that [the Palestinian terrorist
group] Hamas trains 3,000-5,000 through its
camps every year. At Seeds, we have only a couple
of hundred [young people that we work with].
"He did a marvelous job of reaching out to both
the Jewish and Arab-American people at the meet-
Ben Josef, whose daughter will attend Seeds
camp in Maine this summer, said, "What he said
that I really like was that, in the long run, it's not
our decision what happens in the Middle East; it's
up to them.
People who say Seeds gives too much credibility
to the Palestinian cause are on the wrong track,
Ben Josef said
"First, it's not just about Arabs and Jews," she
said, pointing out that Seeds deals with young peo-
ple from areas of conflict around the globe.
"We all need to talk together; its your enemies
you have to make peace with, not your friends,"
Linda Brenners of Farmington Hills, a parent
not involved in Seeds of Peace and not at the meet-
ing, said she hopes Dr. Miller "will lead Seeds in a
direction away from the propaganda that paints the
Palestinians as the guileless, persecuted victims and
the Israelis as the heartlessly 'hardline' aggressors.
"It would seem that if Seeds were to become a
real agent for positive change in the region, it
would make it an organizational priority to tackle
Arab rejection of Israeli statehood and the
deplorable incitement to hatred against Israel and
Jews that is institutionally supported throughout
the Arab world."
— Diana Lieberman